Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Don't Mourn. Don't Cheer. Mobilize.

The total expenditure of words in the past 24 hours has been "yuge." Everyone has an explanation for what just happened and suggestions for what comes next.

An editorialist in the Chicago Tribune wrote, Use this gift from voters well, Republicans, advising the winners to take constructive advantage of what will likely be a very short window of opportunity, if history is any indicator.
Just as surely as they've [the Republicans] have raised this red sea, they can sink back to minority status in a couple of election cycles. Solutions or self-destruction, GOP. What'll it be?
A writer on the other side of the divide said on The American Prospect website, Mourn. Then Organize.
At a time like this, many liberals and progressive will recall the words of labor activist Joe Hill: “Don't mourn, organize.” But let's be honest. We're in shock. We need time to mourn. To recover from the trauma of this election. ...
The truth is, this is probably not the great sea change most people seem to think it is. Nate Silver of points out in What a Difference 2 Percentage Points Makes that the difference in popular vote was minuscule statistically. If only 1 voter out of 100 had voted differently, the entire narrative of the post-election onslaught of verbiage would have been totally different. The conventional wisdom would have been completely reversed.

The arc of the pendulum, it seems, is not that large.

So what should a Christian do, now that the election is over?

I'd paraphrase Joe Hill: Don't Mourn or Cheer. Mobilize.

That same Chicago Tribune editorial opens with this quote:
"How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him." — New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, expressing disbelief (and myopia) in 1972 after Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat George McGovern by an Electoral College vote of 520-17. Four years later, Democrats won back the presidency.
Kael's comment illustrates a sad truth, that we all tend to congregate with people much like ourselves. We don't take time to get to know the people whose lives and experiences have led them to a very different political perspective than ours. We look at politics as being about the big issues, rather than seeing the people entangled in the daily impact of those issues.

The next step, for missional believers, should be to examine what we can learn about the people of our community, based on the election cycle we've just endured and the results of this vote. Can we see beyond the rhetoric and the slogans to understand the hearts and minds of people who would inexplicably vote for four years of Donald Trump? Can we push past the accusations and labels to learn about the daily struggles and fears of a person who would dare vote for Hillary Clinton?

Our God has what each of those people needs. The only way they'll discover God's gift is if we'll stop being a voting bloc called "Evangelicals."

Instead, let's mobilize to reach out to our neighbors and share with them our hearts and our good news..

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fruitful Politics: Self Control

In the prison chapel I've encountered quite a few believers who have been convinced that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in them for the purpose of letting them lose control. And so they let the Holy Spirit "set their feet a-dancing", they impulsively say things the Spirit has "given" them, or they find themselves suddenly "slain in the spirit". I've yet to witness anyone barking or fainting or rolling in the aisles in the prison chapel, but I've been told it happens in some of the other services there.

Among the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. It's a paradoxical fruit, since the scriptures clearly tells us the best way to have self control is to put God in control. The Holy Spirit was sent to assist us in this difficult pursuit, but not by staging regular recreations of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

I'm not judging whether the Holy Spirit will actually do such things in the modern church, although I do have some definite opinions about the matter. My chief issue with this sort of uncontrolled behavior is that it seems to fly in the face of the things Jesus said, recorded in John 14-17, about the reasons he was sending the Spirit to inhabit his church.

Jesus clearly explains to his disciples that the Spirit is to be a counselor, an advocate, a guide. He lays out the Spirit's job description clearly in John 16:8-11

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me;  bout righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
You can read more about those three job description bullet points here, here, and here, but altogether they're describing the Spirit's task of pursuing the gospel mission of Christ through the people of the church.

The Spirit helps us to control our emotions, our motives, our words, and our actions by helping us maintain our focus on the mission.

Self control is hard. Raise your hand if you think it's easy. I didn't think so.

And yet, there are situations where we do find it easier.

When my kids were smaller, I found it easier to control my words and my actions when they were around, because I was motivated to set a good example. When I'm at work, it's generally easier to control my tendency toward sarcasm because I'm focused on working together as a team. When I'm driving in rush hour traffic, I'm highly motivated to be aware of everything around me and am able to adjust my actions accordingly.

Every one of those scenarios has in common a mission, some sort of purpose or goal that helps me maintain self control. We all know people who don't control themselves well in those situations, and the result is kids who grow up with potty mouths, difficulty succeeding in or keeping a job, and road rage.

Keeping my mind on God's mission helps me maintain self control, aided by the Spirit within me.

Maintaining control during political season is extremely difficult.

Every morning I check Facebook to learn what's going on in the lives of my friends and family, only to find rude and inflammatory political memes and links. Every day at work there are people who are always trying to provoke a political argument. I read the latest news or tweets and I'm aghast at the things I read.

I want to sarcastically respond to some of those silly Facebook posts. I want rise to the bait and tell that obnoxious co-worker exactly what I think about the cockamamie conspiracies he finds on his favorite deep websites. I want to react to every hot take with a flaming tweet of my own.

Sometimes I do. The snark is strong inside me.

With the Holy Spirit's help, though, I'm becoming more focused on the kingdom mission every day. With his help I'm change.

I'm still easily opinionated, but I'm not easily offended. Anyone with a mind that is at all analytic will form opinions. But with the mission in focus, I realized it's not about me. Being offended means I take things personally. Being missional means I listen not only to the opinion but to the heart of the person sharing that opinion. Then I can respond in a way that plants seeds to grow the kingdom of God.

A missional focus also has taught me to be in control when political disagreement occurs. The truth is, hardly anyone is ever convinced to change their mind because someone argued them into it, or because someone posted a rude meme or gossipy half truth about a candidate. And even if I was able to win a political argument through such means, the result would likely have the opposite effect on my effectiveness at winning people to the truth that's most important.

If you want to grow in the spiritual fruit of self control, it's not about letting go. It's about sowing seeds to the Spirit's garden in your heart. It's about keeping in step with the Spirit as he leads you on mission for the gospel.